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MOSCOW (Reuter) - The Soyuz TM-15 spacecraft, with two Russians and a French researcher on board, blasted off from Kazakhstan's Baikonur cosmodrome on a mission to the Mir orbital space station.

Among the cosmonauts' planned tasks was the removal of the defunct hammer-and-sickle flag from the space station's mast - a final blow to what was once a proud Soviet space programme.